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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

The Diseases of Language               417
hear it over a territory as vast as the Holy Roman Empire At the time
of Alexander the Great, Celtic-speaking tribes inhabited Britain, most
of France and Spain, North Italy, South Germany, and the valley of
the Danube down to the Black Sea Hordes from Gaul crossed to Asia
Minor, and established themselves in the district still called Galatia
Within a short time, Celtic dialects were displaced everywhere except in
Gaul By the middle of the first century, Gaul itself surrendered. The
Gauls were Romanized, and Latin wiped out Celtic Five hundred
years later, the Celtic-speaking remnant had reached vanishing
point
Documentary remains of its former existence are place names, a
handful of meagre inscriptions from France and Lombardy, and
individual words which lie embedded in French and other languages
During the four hundred years of Roman rule, the Celtic dialects of
Britain escaped the fate of their Continental kin They were soil intact
when Emperor Constantine withdrew his legions   After this brief
respite, they succumbed to successive waves of Teutonic invaders
Wherever the German hordes settled, Celtic had to make way for the
language of the conqueror  It has persisted only in Wales, in West
Scotland, and in Ireland
As it now exists, the Celtic group can be divided into two branches,
the Goiddic (Gaelic) and Brythomc (British) The former includes
Irish or Erse, said to be spoken by some 400,000 people, Scots-Gaelic
of the "poor whites" in the Western Highlands, and Manx, an almost
extinct dialect of the Isle of Man The oldest Irish documents are
the so-called Ogam runic inscriptions (p 76), which may go as far
back as the fifth century AD To the Brythomc dialects belong Welsh
and Breton, each spoken by a million people, and Cornish, which
disappeared at the death of Dolly Pentreath in the year 1777
Welsh is still a living language A high proportion (about 30 per cent) of
people who live in Wales are bilingual Breton is not a splinter of the
ancient language of Gaul It is an island Celtic brought over to Latinized
Brittany by Welsh and Cornish refugees in the fifth and sixth
centuries
Remarkable structural similarities unite the Gaelic and Brythonic
dialects Clear-cut differences distinguish them Of the latter, one is
specially characteristic Where Old Irish inscriptions exhibit an initial
qu, represented by a hard c in Erse (gu- in Scots Gaelic), Welsh has p.
For this reason the two branches are sometimes called Q and P Celtic.
A few examples are given below
o